2011 Design Intelligence Rankings

Just posted

1 Michigan
2 Harvard
3 Yale
4 Columbia
6 Cornell
6 Cincinnati
8 UPenn
9 Wash U
10 UT Austin


Let the rankings bashing begin!

Oct 31, 10 7:02 pm

Lame, they only put the top 10 online? Where do they think everyone else ranks?

Oct 31, 10 7:16 pm

SCI-Arc seems to be doing well.

Oct 31, 10 7:19 pm

The economy turns to shit and "practitioners" vote up a state school. Talk about meteoric rise, from outside the top 20 last year, to #1 this year.

James P. Cramer & Co, assclowns.

Nov 1, 10 4:00 am

And before anyone takes offense, translation: hey that's a real smack in the face to all the Ivy Leaguers with that talk of "Time for Change", as if it's to say, get your heads out of your asses and respond to some real world change.

But still such a fickle bunch these "practitioners". Here today gone tomorrow. What the hell happened to Cincinnati and who put them on the shit list. They were like #2 a while ago.

Nov 1, 10 4:22 am

To me this is more an indication of the ultimate failure of these rankings than anything else, and that is coming from a current U of Michigan student.

From what I've read, there has been no change in DI's methodology, and yet it is possible for a school to go from #8(2009) to just below #20(2010) and all the way to #1(2011)?

Michigan is a great school, happy to be here, but since starting in the summer of June 2009 I can see no change that would indicate why last year we weren't worth of the top 20 and now we are at the top.

More of a coup for our marketing department, probably a result of them being fired up after not making the list last year, which could have set off a mass email campaign to "the largest # of living alumni" and current students to make sure they fill out the survey... see:

Nov 1, 10 1:32 pm

Anybody have the top 20 list they want to share?

Nov 1, 10 1:41 pm

uc berkley is tied at 10 for graduate program.

Nov 1, 10 4:12 pm

watanbe: heh, if you had been there from 2006 to 2009, you'd have seen the difference.

the school went from me having to deal with really stupid crap coming from professors that just wanted to torture us for 6 weeks (and at times being dumbfounded by how obvious their attempts were at sounding smart through obfuscation), to those professors either leaving or getting eclipsed by the quality faculty at the school.

Nov 1, 10 4:41 pm
Ben Foster

Monica Ponce de Leon is getting a lot of attention, but beyond that, there is tangible evidence that we are deserving of attention.

We now have a ridiculous digi-fab lab, a generous endowment for lush scholarships and TA positions that basically cover tuition for talented students. Our school offers a 2 year Masters program where in a time where most others (and most on that list) rob students for requiring 3 years for students holding a BS or BA in Architecture. The only problem is that now, the school's job placement rate is embarrassing, but I think that is a nation-wide problem.

If you stop complaining about the cold weather, the economy, being in a small city in the Midwest, not being in a private school in the Northeast, you'll have all the space, attention of professors and equipment to make bad ass projects at Michigan.

Nov 1, 10 4:57 pm

Top undergrads seem pretty standard, Cornell, Syracuse, Rice et al.

I think, by contrast, Michigan over the GSD is a large leap. Don't know what that means, if it means anything at all. Think Kanye is one of the few who place an abnormally large stake in critic driven awards.

Nov 1, 10 5:01 pm

good neighbor - do they still have that painfully small room for their public lectures?

Nov 1, 10 5:45 pm

You know what? Fuck you guys. I'm all about H.H. Richardson and every single Porcellian connection driven project he ever made. Dude was a workhorse and I think this 'community' is a bunch of whiners. Suck on that, Columbia.

Nov 1, 10 7:00 pm

fluxbound, Good neighbor, et al:

Right, again, "Michigan is a great school, happy to be here" but how on earth is it possible to rate under 20 and then go to 1?

Put another way: one design methodology of a test is to reveal some sort of stratification, of students or schools. If student X takes a test on subject A and gets placed, oh I dunno, 21st in their class, and the next day takes another test, again on subject A, and is ranked 1st, I'd say it's not the student that does/doesn't know the material, but that the test maker doesn't know how to make a good test.

As you said, those changes occurred before I even got here. I understand there is lag time between affecting(implementing) change and the reception of that change, but I'm hoping that these questionable results can be used as an example for why people should not give a fuck about DI and their rankings, and next year there will be no 2012 ranking thread (hah!).

Nov 1, 10 7:21 pm

richardson couldn't design a f-ing vestibule to save his own ass - weird romanesque gingerbread BS. stupid-ass arches that landed on nothing...

McKim, Mead & White, all the way!!

Nov 1, 10 7:29 pm
won and done williams

go blue!

(if only the same thing could be said about our football team. oy vey.)

Nov 1, 10 9:10 pm
Ben Foster


yea, it's not the biggest, but who cares when you can watch the lectures online anyway. harvard also has a great lecture series online too

Nov 2, 10 9:19 am
Ben Foster


yea, i'm a little curious to find out why we took such a large jump.. if anything, it makes a statement of how much parody there is out there and we aren't living in the 30s when there were only 5 good architecture schools

hopefully this gives the school fair recognition in ivy league dominated cities

Nov 2, 10 9:24 am

i think it's the ripple effect coming from Tom Buresh's great work, along with certain faculty leaving or taking a backseat in terms of their involvement in the grad program throughout the last 3 years or so.

it took a while for sufficiently good alumni to enter the workforce; and that's why you're seeing the jump.

-- yeah, i'm that arrogant, no news.

Nov 2, 10 9:45 am
Ben Foster

Tom is money, UC Berkeley should be happy

Nov 2, 10 10:00 am
James P. Cramer & Co, assclowns"

Amen to that. This so-called 'survey' has no real value other than to illuminate Just how useless the whole D.I. operation really is.

Nov 2, 10 2:50 pm
creativity expert

My fellow archinectors, why are you talking about rankings? we all figured that they don't mean shit while we were in college.

Nov 2, 10 8:31 pm

To any Michigan student who thinks the rating is incorrect- Do better work. Seriously, you're dragging me and this program down. The program has amazing capabilities and in the next few years we'll watch it take off.

I agree with the ranking however I do not believe that more than 25% of enrolled students will produce "#1 ranking" work. And I assume rankings do matter as they're consequential to program development. The increased exposure/increased applicants/better incoming students/better work formula will push the program to a "#1" —if not already.

f'ing robot arms.

Nov 3, 10 4:58 pm
won and done williams

anytime a non-ivy takes the top slot it is going to be scrutinized. when cincinnati was at the top of various rankings, my initial reaction was always, "cincinnati? are you kidding me?" just goes to show that we've all been brainwashed to believe that if it doesn't say "harvard" or "yale" it's second rate which isn't true at all. not to say that the di rankings really mean much of anything, but they do reveal our own collective prejudices.

Nov 3, 10 5:39 pm

a good school aint gonna make a good architect...

Nov 3, 10 7:56 pm

^maybe, if that person refuses to take part in the education provided by the "good school"

Nov 3, 10 8:05 pm

I think its sad how seriously everyone is taking this ranking system. I went to Cincinnati for my undergrad because of its position on the list and was sorely disappointed. I am currently in grad school at a program that didn't make the top 10 and it is miles better than Cincinnati. Seriously, no comparison.

Schools like Cincinnati make the list because they have large graduating classes which the city cannot support. As a result the students move all over the country to both intern and work. This leads to increased exposure and a higher likelihood of a practitioners vote. Not sure if this would apply to Michigan but it is very likely.

Cincinnati has a solid program but #2 or #6? I don't think so.

P.S. last year was the first year that Cincinnati used portfolio as a means of acceptance. Prior it was strictly grades.

Nov 3, 10 8:23 pm

So, what is the standard?

I have some doubt about this reanking.

Nov 3, 10 11:44 pm

^you seem to be giving a personal/thorough analysis to recognize rank- do you take yourself seriously? If it was your profession (to rank) would you expect others to take you seriously?

I've had no heartfelt reaction to whether or not people take a ranking seriously but I understand your emotion as I attended their unranked BSArch undergraduate program.

Nov 3, 10 11:55 pm

Everyone should remember that these rankings are a measure of professional market penetration of alumni from these schools ie. what conventional practitioners think of the students and their potential to become architects in the strictest sense of the word.

While Michigan has been on the rise in recent years and arguably deserves to be in the top 10, moving up to the number one spot is a bit of a stretch. Harvard and Yale have traditionally captured the top spots because they gear their admissions to students who will go through the masters program and go on to become corporate or licensed architects so they can have lucrative careers and give back to the school. These DI Rankings have little to do with design ability or versatility of students. If they did measure those things aspects, most of these schools would not make the top ten list.

Columbia should arguably occupy the top spot when it comes to design innovation, reinventing the profession, questioning architectural conventions and remaining focused on the future of the profession. Columbia graduates disperse into many different markets including academia, theory, design journalism, architectural design, graphic design, video game design, computer programming and animation, and digital fabrication. Many go on to become soul practicioners, starting their own upstart practices at young ages and completely fall off the radar of this study since DI seeks data from larger, more established firms. There are other schools like Columbia (Sci Arc, UCLA, UPenn) with a very wide reaching influence on a number of different design and education sectors.

DI is an obsolete ranking system which tells us little about the quality of education and more about what corporate architecture thinks of a select number of students they employ as interns. We need a new, more comprehensive method for ranking schools past the conventional DI questionnaire that goes to some partner at SOM or equivalent firm.

Nov 4, 10 1:45 am

^ Somebody obviously went to Columbia...

Nov 4, 10 9:52 am

Its also funny you say this, I once had a boss (A Columbia MArch alum from the 1980's) who said he/she would never again hire a Columbia grad because their skill sets were so far removed from the realities of the profession.

Schools need to focus on teaching our students how to MAKE BUILDINGS and MAKE THEM WELL. Architecture students should not go to graduate school and be taught to be video game designers or computer programers. Its ridiculous. You are IN ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL. Start acting like it. Its this removal from reality that endangers our profession. The general public sees us as a joke and has rendered (pun intended) us obsolete in our overall importance as a commodity. We need to show the public why we add value to a building and why we are critical, not how we can create virtual building that are "totally pushing the cutting edge"

Nov 4, 10 10:09 am

i'd love to see these schools release unemployment statistics of their recent graduates.

instead, these schools will keep flooding my inbox with press releases about an absurd and subjective ranking system.


Nov 4, 10 10:54 am

Two Cents:

As a former Cincinnati student and a current Michigan grad, this year's rankings have a lot of personal relevance. Same as up above, I chose Cincy for undergrad, based upon the rankings, and was very disappointed with the level of teaching within the institution. I believe, however, that it was a fantastic school for preparing students for the workforce, to learn how maneuver your way through the ruins of this economy, into the doorsteps of firms that are hiring. Great practical education.

Choosing to do something different for grad, I didn't ever look at the rankings. I went with the school that was the most logical choice for me, considering courses, professors, and financial concerns. It was a great choice.

Michigan probably isn't Harvard, Yale, MIT, or Columbia. The level of student motivation at each of those institutions will far exceed the average motivational level at Michigan. But what Michigan does offer is the opportunity to truly pursue your passions, within the realm of the school. Digital Fabrication excels here, but so does research in contemporary structures, environmental analysis, and sociological theory.

What you want to study, Michigan has, and a vast field of faculty interested in all venues of the profession. Unfortunately, you won't be able to have Eisenmann or Holl slam your work like at Columbia, you won't be able to work in GSD's fantastic facility, and you won't be able to co-op like at Cincy (for what it's worth). Regardless, they are all great institutions, and continue to push the field in new directions.

Education is relative to what you make out of it - always. There is no way to receive your degree automatically, once being accepted. Working your ass off, to find what you love within this broad field, is what it is about.

For those in the application process: don't ask others or yourself ambiguous, irrelevant questions like "Which is better: Harvard, Columbia, or Yale?" There is no answer, and will never be an answer, unless you immerse yourself within the experience.

Nov 4, 10 10:58 am

Points of clarification -->

I do not discourage anybody from looking at or applying to Cincy, it has a lot to offer for grad + undergrad. They just did not teach the facets of design that I am specifically interested in.

^ Architecture is not just buildings. Architecture is conceptualization of the world we know and live in. If students are interested in learning about how to design a sturdy building with high craft, by all means, do it. There is a major need.

Alternatively, there is a need for the virtualization of our concepts, a need to push the cutting edge, a need to design within video games. All so that we can have a better understanding of the human mind, relative to an environmental construct.

The profession can be about great buildings: education is for critical thinking.

Nov 4, 10 11:39 am
The profession can be about great buildings: education is for critical thinking.

That explains why the first year here was basically like my BA in liberal studies: by grad school you either are or aren't a critical thinker, enough with the dumbing down of graduate studies. You can teach architectural skills, you can't teach people how to think.

Tangential, but not, anecdote: first semester of a design fundamentals course, a girl complained "these readings take so long, it's not like reading Harry Potter."

Nov 4, 10 5:19 pm

Anyone have access to the list of the top 20 grad schools? can we put those up here?

Nov 4, 10 8:00 pm

@guesswho...your thinking is incredibly narrow minded and is dangerous to the profession. As far as making buildings well, engineers can already do that without us. If anything is pushing us into the realm of irrelevancy it's that fact along with the fact that in many states such as NY, a PE stamp is equivalent to an architect. Furthermore, if architecture students were not pursuing tools and ideas of related disciplines we would be reduced to the 'cad monkeys' that everyone fears becoming instead of innovators. If we follow your line of thinking we would not pursue things like digital fabrication which allow us to become part of the fabrication process and enhance the design by shifting roles instead of just dictating to contractors. Studying visualization tools used in digital animation and video gaming has allowed us to visualize designs like never before, testing the design and experience of a space before it comes close to being built. More advanced programs pursue BIM modeling in grasshopper, Revit, Catia (embracing software traditionally used by the aerospace industry) to streamline the design and construction process. Mingling with the design tools and ideas of related disciplines is something to be embraced as they greatly enhance all levels of the design process and help us 'design buildings and design them well'. Your naivety runs contrary to what architecture has always been about - embracing new ideas instead of closing ourselves off to them and designing in a vacuum. We can continue to define what architecture can be and not let it define us.

Nov 5, 10 9:14 pm

Otis is full of shit.

Nov 5, 10 10:26 pm
remus + romulus

@ Otis. I think you're on the right track but I wouldn't say so readily that Architects are being pushed to irrelevancy based on the legal merits of stamps in certain states. True, an engineer could make a building without an architect, but should he/she? Our job is to convinced clients and the public that they shouldn't. And we need to be constantly on the lookout for justification for ourselves and for others. I had a conversation with a material physicist two nights ago, and he was enthusiastically telling me about a translucent plastic insulation panel that he was trying to market through a sister company. I asked him about the kinds of applications he envisioned for this panel. He told me he didn't know. He wanted to talk to architects and designers to get ideas for applications and then tweak the material properties for best performance. He said, "You tell me what you want it to do and we'll adjust the physics." I thought, of course, as architects we are authors of a process that involves many players, but we orchestrate, with budget in mind of course. I decide where the material should go, how it should be used. He adjusts the material for best performance. We show the client what a great collaboration this is, and that is why Architects remain relevant. We design the puzzle and we know how to put it together.

We can take it a step further with scripting and BIM to really become authors not only of design, but of structure and building behavior. This is where I disagree with guesswho because we have plenty of tools at our disposal to enhance our process, increase efficiency and experiment with form. It's not a dedication to virtual reality but an advancement of design and form generation. Obviously we need to build well but we also need to advance the profession. You don't just learn how to design/ make a building and call it a day.

Let's face it. 5 years of undergrad, or 3.5 for an M.Arch just isn't enough time to learn all this, nor should it be. These DI rankings are fun and entertaining (What up UT-Austin! Why down 5 spots?) but education doesn't stop when you graduate. So all of us who's universities made the list this year, big pat on the back. But to those who dedicate themselves to individual research combined with real architectural practice.. you know at the end of the day it's personal ingenuity and motivation that really count. I can say some of my old classmates were brilliant. Others were morons. So if DI says we're ranked #5 last year and #10 this year, what does it really matter?

Nov 6, 10 4:19 pm

I mostly agree with Otis' latest post.

Still, it's not just about looking elsewhere (inter-disciplinary cross-pollination?) and going to a school that allows and encourages this, but also about inculcating the need and want for constant learning.

While I was at JHU, the phrase "life-long learning" was constantly drilled into our heads.

While at Michigan, the freedom that each studio allowed forced us to actually become little specialists at whatever interested us; and I think that's the most important thing I learned at TCAUP. That I could become a specialist on-the-fly if I so decided I wanted to be one (I spent first year playing around with CATIA, took a drift to the more socially-oriented part of the program for the first part of the second year, partook in the Coy Howard experience the following one, and then the Michael Bell Studio [these last two being polar opposities in term of priorities, but still two of the smartest people I've ever conversed with], culminating with a thesis that worked on issues of process and scripting...).

Anyways, regardless of whether you had 2 professors at TCAUP that thought you're conjuring the devil by using CATIA scripts to the define the basis of your form; you were always bound to get at least one extremely brilliant member of the faculty who would actually be able to grasp at what you were doing, and hence every single crit in three years (with maybe the exception of the first summer's), had something worth listening to.

So at this point, I think TCAUP deserves that first spot. Columbia may have Eisenman and Holl, but TCAUP has Malcolm Mccullough and Perry Kulper, and is willing to constantly import talent into the faculty (think Michael Bell, Michael Sorkin, MPDL, Coy Howard, etc, etc) for visiting professorships.

Nov 7, 10 8:58 pm

I wish I could edit my bad grammar after I submit stuff :-\

Nov 7, 10 8:59 pm

Anyone want to post the top 20 in MArch , BArch and Landscape?

Nov 10, 10 12:29 am

No, because nobody wants to pay $39.99 for a 90 page document that consists almost entirely of lists and vaguely rationalized explanations for their order.

You'll have to get it from someone at a school that happened to rank high enough this year to merit their publicity department actually purchasing it.

Nov 10, 10 4:37 pm
Dr. Architecture

Pleased to share! But do not use rankings as a criteria to select a school.

University of Michigan
Harvard University
Yale University
Columbia University
Cornell University (M.Arch candidate)
University of Cincinnati
University of Pennsylvania
Washington University
University of California at Berkeley
University of Texas at Austin
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ.
University of Virginia
Princeton University
Rice University
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Syracuse University
Clemson University

Nov 10, 10 11:00 pm


Nov 11, 10 12:19 am

Take that, Clemson!!

Nov 11, 10 12:25 am

Doc Arch, how about Landscape Arch?

Nov 11, 10 6:40 pm

SCIARC is ranked higher then Princeton? come on... what a joke.

Nov 11, 10 8:04 pm

better yet Virginia tech is ranked higher then Princeton? does not compute...

Nov 11, 10 8:07 pm

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